Frequently Asked Questions
Below are responses to frequent questions. If you are looking for other information, please contact us or scroll to the bottom of this page and complete the form. We welcome your inquiries and will do our best to respond. Your question may be on the mind of someone else like you.
How Prevalent is Autism in the United States?
Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined. An estimated 1,500,000 individuals in the United States are affected by autism.
According to the latest data and statistics issued by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) affects an estimated 1 in 88 children by age 8, including 1 in 54 boys. Boys are five times more likely than girls to have autism. This means that across the country, 130 babies are born each day who will have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Children and adults with autism have valuable talents to offer, especially once obstacles are overcome. Early interventions makes an enormous difference. Learn about the evidenced-based practices that help promote development and learning (see FAQ below).
To visit the CDC website on Autism, Click here.
To view the CDC's full report on Autism, Click here.
Who Benefits from the AUTISM Educators Act?
The AUTISM Educators Act (H.R. 1509) fills a critical need in our public schools. The bill will make federal grants available to school districts to develop pilot programs that use best practices and evidence-based approaches for teaching students with ASD effectively.
The legislation makes it possible for a school district to qualify for the federal funds to develop a pilot program if, district-wide, at least ten percent of the students who receive special education services are identified as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The ASD identification may include but is not limited to Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), for example. Given the growth in cases of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, many school districts will meet this criteria.
While school districts with higher numbers of students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder may be better prepared to develop the pilot programs, every school district across the country will have access to successful pilot programs that are developed under these grants. The AUTISM Educators Act (H.R. 1509) is a win-win for all local school districts and for many students who will benefit from the training modules that will be developed through these pilot programs.
Together we can help children succeed in our schools and adults thrive in our community. Let's create a culture of inclusivity that enriches the future for everyone. Help pass the AUTISM Educators Act (H.R. 1509).
What is Autism?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people. ASDs are "spectrum disorders." That means ASDs affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe. People with ASDs share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction. But there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms. To learn more about the characteristics of autism and when to intervene, Click here.
The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) 1 provides standardized criteria to help diagnose ASDs. The criteria identifies the following ASD subcategories: Autistic Disorder, Asperger's Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (Including Atypical Autism), Rett's Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. To view the diagnosis criteria, Click here.
For medical purposes, autism is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). This standard-setting manual is currently under review and the updated DSM-V is expected to be issued soon. The definition for Autism Spectrum Disorders is expected to be updated and revised in the new DSM-V. Many groups are watching this closely since the definition is likely to impact diagnosis and possibly access to service.
For educational purposes, autism is recognized as a disability. A student with a disability may require special education and related services, supports and accommodations to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) within the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Two key federal laws are the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA or "No Child Left Behind") and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Which Label? Asperger's - PDD/NOS - HFA - Autistic?
When you speak about Autism Spectrum Disorders, who are you talking about and who qualifies within the AUTISM Educators Act (H.R. 1509)?
The AUTISM Educators Act (H.R. 1509) recognizes that the effects of Autism Spectrum Disorders take many forms and may present differently in different students.
Currently, the medical criteria for diagnosing autism appears in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). The manual identifies the following ASD subcategories: Autistic Disorder, Asperger's Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (Including Atypical Autism), Rett's Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. To view the diagnosis criteria, Click here.
Regardless of the label, teachers need to be offered training to teach this growing population effectively. The teaching techniques that are developed from evidence-based practices for students with ASD consist of best practices that can help many different learners. The training will help improve educational outcomes for many different learners in general education classrooms across the country.
Why Focus on General Education Classrooms?
The growing number of students affected by autism means that many more will be integrated in general education classrooms. Already there are many students with ASD in general education classrooms; many perform well and even excel in specific academic areas but struggle with social and communication tasks. Frequently, general education teachers and staff are not adequately trained to work effectively with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, who have a wide diversity of characteristics.
Federal law requires that students be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) that enables them to access a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Many students with ASD are enrolled in general education classrooms with proper supports.
Teaching techniques that are based on evidence-based practices for students with ASD will help many different learners. The necessary skills may be attained through qualified training programs and may be relatively easy to implement in school settings.
While some students have been identified as having ASD, others who demonstrate ASD characteristics have not. Training educators to identify and meet the needs of the growing population of students with ASD would benefit many students in general education classrooms. Proper integration of students with ASD will help build a culture of inclusivity that celebrates diversity and the unique strengths and challenges of every student.
What are evidence-based practices?
Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders that researchers have shown to be effective are called evidence-based practices. Currently, the National Professional Development Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders has identified 24 evidence-based practices. Not every practice is appropriate for every learner. The variety of evidence-based practices makes it possible to carefully match the best interventions to a learner’s specific needs and characteristics.
Among the 24 EBP are: Naturalistic Intervention, Pivotal Response Training, Prompting, Response Interruption/Redirection, Self Management, Social Skills Groups, Structured Work Systems, Task Analysis, Time Delay, Video Modeling, Visual Supports. Combinations of EBP are frequently the core components of commonly used methodologies, such as Applied Behavior Analysis, DIR/Floortime, Relationship Development Interventions (RDI), and Training and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) for example. To learn more about evidence-based practices for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Click here.